What the hellbender? On April 16, Pennsylvania lawmakers named the eastern hellbender the official state amphibian—a giant, nocturnal salamander that has inspired several colorful nicknames: snot otter, Allegheny alligator, and lasagna lizard. Covered in a layer of mucus, they can grow to be more than two feet long. Breathing primarily through loose flaps of thick wrinkled skin that look a little bit like lasagna noodles, hellbenders are sensitive to pollution and changing conditions, making them a perfect natural indicator of water quality.
As many as 1 million plant and animal species are now on the verge of extinction, according to a May 1,500-page United Nations summary report compiled by nearly 150 international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies. Warning that we’re altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history,” it calls for “transformative changes,” including building biodiversity considerations into every aspect of social and economic decision-making.
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon 50 years ago this July, NASA’s four Apollo computers had less processing power than today’s smartphone. Another mind-blowing fact: The crew traveled 240,000 miles from Earth to the moon in 76 hours.
Plogging—the act of picking up litter while jogging (it’s a thing—try it!)—was one of the 2,800 words added to the official international Scrabble dictionary this May, its first update since 2015. A mashup of jogging and the Swedish phrase “plocka upp,” meaning pick up, plogging started as an organized activity in Sweden in 2016 and spread to the United States in 2018, following increased concern about plastic pollution.
On August 11, it will be 100 years since Andrew Carnegie died at the age of 83. The industrialist and groundbreaking philanthropist gave away $350 million in his lifetime—the equivalent of at least $5 billion today. He called the opening of his Carnegie Museums, Library, and Music Hall in Pittsburgh “one of the chief satisfactions of my life.”
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